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DIVERSITY

ALL ABOARD: Farstad navigates path to diversity With women comprising just 2 per cent of seafarers worldwide, gender diversity is a major priority for the maritime industry, and vessel operator Farstad Shipping is at the helm of the challenge. WHEN IT COMES to the attraction and retention of women, the Australian resource industry has ramped up efforts to diversify its workforce during recent years of unparalleled growth. Employers, industry associations, unions, universities and women’s groups have banded together to break down traditional barriers and ensure there is nothing stopping women from donning a hard-hat, steel-capped boots and a highvisibility vest in an exciting resources role. The challenge is far from over, but if you think the mining sector is facing an uphill battle in turning around its male-dominated image, spare a thought for the industry’s maritime sector. Worldwide, it is estimated that around 2 per cent of seafarers are women and Farstad Shipping managing director Wayne Aitken says that is generally representative of its 650-strong seagoing workforce. “Within this 2 per cent of female seafarers worldwide, around 20 per cent work in the cruise industry. We are in a sector of the offshore industry that is traditionally less attractive to women,” says Aitken. “Certainly within our Australian office-based workforce we have a strong overall gender split with 45 to 50 per cent of positions occupied by women. “But we are trying to move more women into non-traditional operational and senior management roles, and to do that we have to build our reputation as an employer of choice.” Farstad, which provides shipping services to Australia’s oil and gas projects, stepped forward for the first ever assessment in the Australian Women in Resources Alliance (AWRA) Recognised Program. Facilitated by national resource industry employer group AMMA in partnership with the Australian Government, AWRA Recognised is the first industry-specific gender diversity

Farstad vessel ‘Far Sword’

www.amma.org.au | Autumn 2014 |

endorsement program based on a rigorous model of organisational capability. “Bearers of an AWRA Recognised stamp have had their workplace policies, procedures and practices formally assessed against best practice management of workplace gender diversity,” says AMMA executive director WAYNE industry services Tara Diamond. AITKEN “The program recognises organisations at different stages of their journey with a bronze, silver, gold or platinum stamp that can be used in recruitment campaigns and internal communication. “Farstad Shipping received a silver rating, which means that like many small to medium-sized organisations, they are at the ‘aware and building’ stage of their diversity journey. They understand the business case and have the beginnings of an effective diversity program to truly benefit from a greater proportion of women throughout the organisation.” During the assessment, key Farstad Shipping employees, including seagoing, shore-based staff and senior management, were interviewed across a range of dimensions, including cultural integration and acceptance, vision and management of existing diversity policies. “Despite never having a formal strategy to increase workforce gender diversity, I knew when we embarked on this assessment that the feedback would be encouraging,” says Aitken. “We have always had good paid maternity leave policies and programs to assist women to return to the workplace after maternity leave. “We also offer flexible working arrangements for all staff and make it clear during recruitment that we are an equal opportunity employer. “Although we struggle to attract female applicants to seagoing roles, we do support learning and development, and encourage our female staff to succeed. We work hard to ensure there is no glass ceiling on our ships. “The women who were interviewed were very positive about the company and what they’ve been able to achieve.” Even with established support programs in place for its female workforce, like many organisations in the wider industry, Farstad Shipping realises these initiatives are no longer enough to gain a competitive edge over the competition. The evidence overwhelmingly supports the need for industry to raise the bar further to embed an ethos of diversity in all aspects and all levels of an organisation. Aitken says he is leading the

RESOURCE PEOPLE Issue 006 | Autumn 2014  
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